Cage Match

Player of the Week

Montrezl Harrell, Louisville

Montrezl HarrellMontrezl HarrellThere aren't many players in college basketball that play as intense as Montrezl Harrell does. The 6'8" power forward out of Louisville is getting some buzz as one of the nation's top players, but what's really remarkable is how efficient he's been from the field this season. Harrell has averaged 16.8 points per game, while shooting 64.1% from the field (73.4% from inside the arc). Only Duke's freshman star Jahill Okafor and Eastern Washington's Venky Jois have been more efficient while scoring more points, and neither of those two have been as efficient around the basket. Granted, it's easier to shoot a high percentage when most of your shot attempts are either dunks or lay-ups. In Tuesday's game against Indiana, for example, Harrell shot 10/13 from the floor. All 10 of those made field goals were either dunks or lay-ups. However, anyone who watches Louisville games knows how hard he works for those shots. He seems determined to beat his man down the floor on every position, either scoring in transition or aggressively establishing low-post position. He's even more relentless on the offensive glass, a skill that presents him with many easy scoring opportunities. His "garbage-man" style of scoring is complemented by his athleticism, length, instincts, and elite finishing ability. Harrell may be slightly undersized and shoot abhorrently from the stripe (though he's up to a less abhorrent 57.4% this year), but he's almost certainly the most important piece on one of the best teams in the country.


Justin Anderson, Virginia

Virginia is just one of several serious Final Four contenders in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season. The Cavaliers have a reputation of being one of the best defensive teams in the nation, and this year they've continued to stifle opposing offenses to 32.1% shooting. One major concern entering the season was how the team was going to recover from losing senior sharpshooter Joe Harris; enter Justin Anderson. Previously considered a defensive-minded role-player, Anderson has emerged as both the team's top scorer and the team's top shooter. The junior guard is averaging 15.8 points while shooting a staggering 58.8% from behind the arc (!!) on 3.8 attempts per game. Though that percentage is almost certainly unsustainable, the nine-game sample size is enough for me to consider him a seriously improved shooter from his previous two seasons (30.3% on 1.9 attempts his freshman year, 29.4% on 2.8 attempts the next). As a draft prospect, Anderson's stock is rising. If he continues to shoot well, he'll get a lot of attention in the first round.

Justin Bibbs, Virginia Tech

Speaking of staggering, unsustainable shooting numbers; Virginia Tech freshman Justin Bibbs is making an unfathomable 64% (!!!) of his jumpers behind the arc thus far in the season. Unlike Anderson, Bibbs was expected to be an excellent shooter. The young lefty has a very easy, balanced stroke; squaring up to the rim quickly while getting good elevation on his release. He's got decent size for this role, standing 6'5" with a solid 205 lbs frame. He also moves well and is capable of getting to the rim if defenders crowd him. His ball-handling and playmaking skills are unrefined (.67 assist to turnover ratio), but not absent. Justin Bibbs is an exciting young player for a rebuilding Hokies squad. He's only eight games into his collegiate career, but is already making a significant impact. I'm looking forward to seeing how he develops.


The Syracuse Orange

The Orange were a ranked team earlier in the season, but have been struggling to live up to those expectations. They've dropped their last two games, losing to (a similarly struggling) Michigan team, as well as (unranked) St. John's. While forward Chris McCullough and center Rakeem Christmas are playing extremely well (combined: 30.3 points, 18.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 2.7 steals, 4.9 blocks per game on 58% shooting), the same cannot be said for the rest of the team. No other rotation player on the team is shooting higher than 42% from the field, no other player on the team is scoring in double-digits, and the team currently has no real presence from behind the arc (21% as a team). Trevor Cooney is the best shooter on the team, but even he's only shooting 28.3% from downtown. Even with all this working against them, the Orange still possess a 5-3 record. It will be tough to regain ground once conference play starts, but if they start making some shots now, they could pick up some momentum heading into the new year.

Top 5 Freshmen performers

1. Jahill Okafor - Okafor has been billed as one of the best post players to enter college basketball in a long time. His combination of size, skill, and poise has many considering the center an early candidate for the top overall pick in the 2015 draft. He's averaging 17.1 points with 7.6 boards on the year, and is likely to remain a force to be reckoned with for the Blue Devils all season.

2. Chris McCullough - McCullogh has doing a bit of everything so far this season. He's averaging 14.4 points on 57% shooting, shooting 5.5 free-throws a game (connecting on only 54.5% of them, though), pulling down 8.8 rebounds, dishing out 1.4 assists, blocking 2.4 shots, and nabbing 1.9 steals on average every game. It hasn't taken him long to hit his stride, and if he keeps it up, he's got “lottery-pick” written all over him.

3. Tyus Jones - There doesn't appear to be much friction between the playing styles of Jones and his backcourt mate, Quinn Cook. In fact, the two seem to complement each other quite well on the court, which can only mean good things for Duke. Jones is averaging 10.5 points (including an impressive 21 point performance in a recent victory against Wisconsin) and has a pristine 5.8 assist-to-turnover ratio.

4. Justice Winslow - Winslow is the third Blue Devil to crack this top freshmen list. He's averaging 12 points, 4.6 boards and 2.1 assists per game while providing excellent defense from his position. Perhaps most surprising is his respectable 38.5% 3-point shooting percentage. NBA teams froth at the mouth for versatile wing players that can shoot and defend, and if Winslow sustains his shooting efficiency, he'll certainly profit from that on draft night.

5. Justin Jackson - One could make the case that this final spot should go to the aforementioned Justin Bibbs or Louisville center Chinanu Onuaku, but Jackson will retain this prestigious position for the time being. The 6'8" forward is an intelligent player that possesses good size and scoring instincts. He's better than the 22% three-point shooter he has been, and the Tar Heels are certainly hoping he finds his stroke sooner than later.

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In like this game and

In like this game and Montrezl Harrell palying great and its my favourite player .

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